Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine

Rosie’s first album, When We Were Small, was as stark as it was beautiful. The instrumentation was slight and delicate, with Rosie’s fragile vocals draped over the top. The songs were mostly piano based, with some guitars and strings mixed in from time to time. The drums were virtually non-existent throughout the album. Even the “upbeat radio song” (“Wedding Day”) would’ve been a ballad on any other album.
Over the course of her next two albums, she used increasingly more instruments. The songs were still beautiful (with the exception of a couple), but there was more to them. And, while I always loved her albums, I always longed for another album full of her delicate songs.
And, with the release of These Friends of Mine, I finally got my wish. Only this time I got a little bonus. This time she was joined by her good friends (and some amazing musicians themselves), Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer.
The songs were recorded over a very short time, with most of them being written and recorded within hours (if not minutes) of each other.
The album is comprised of 10 songs…7 original songs and 3 covers. The covers are good, but are definitely the low points of the album. The covers are R.E.M.’s “The One I Love”, Denison Witmer’s “Paper Doll” (complete with Denison backing her on vocals), and Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” (which has been covered by Denison Witmer, Eva Cassidy, and, most recently, Willie Nelson). They’re good songs, but they seems relatively uninspired…like they were thrown in as an afterthought.
There is really only one other part of the album that I don’t enjoy too much. The song “Say Hello” is a beautiful song, with Rosie and Sufjan trading vocals…but then it gets to the end, and there’s just a small, annoying bit of non-conversation at the tail end that just kills it for me. In fact, I’m very close to just editing that out myself just so it won’t bug me anymore.
There’s also a bit of conversation before “Why Waste More Time?” and at the end of “These Friends of Mine”, but it’s actually pretty cool. It’s the sound of 3 friends having fun recording an album, and it lets you into their world and process…if only for a couple of seconds.
The rest of the album is fun and gorgeous and exactly what I wanted. “If This City Never Sleeps” is a great way to kick of the album…a short song driven by a finger-picked guitar line. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is pretty much more of the same…but in a good way.
There are three songs that really stand out from the rest of the album. “Much Farther to Go” and “Kite Song” would’ve fit perfectly on When We Were Small; they’re small, stark songs that will break your heart if you’re not careful. “These Friends of Mine” closes out the album in grand fashion. The song starts with the rolling of tape and a loop of harmonies reminiscent of The Beach Boys. I was hooked before she even started singing. The song starts a bit slow, but, by the end of it, the harmonies are back in full throat as Rosie’s voice soars above them all in a huge sound of gorgeousness.
If you love Rosie’s previous albums you’ll love this one. If you’ve never listened to any of her music, this would be a pretty good place to start. It’s an intimate recording full of beautiful songs. What could be better than that?

Rating: 8.6

Essential Tracks: “If This City Never Sleeps”, “All The Way to New York City”

Favorite Tracks: “Much Farther to Go”, “Kite Song”, “These Friends of Mine”

This album was released on Rosie's own label, Sing a Long Records, and is available as a download only. You can download it at iTunes or at Emusic

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